Mike’s Excellent Adventure…True Story

Here’s an accounting of what transpired that fateful day in August of 2004.

Mike decided the hell with it. He’d been working 12 hour days for what seemed like months. He decided today would be a good day to just drive, so he jumped into his truck and took off. It was a beautiful day, no clouds, plenty of sunshine and it was only in the upper 70′s. Yes, a fine day to be lazy and check out yard sales and flea markets.

You see, Mike has an addiction. He collects,(errr…excuse me), uses old tools. If they’re vintage or antique, Mike wants them. Hand planes, spoke shaves, saws, anything that was once used to work wood or make furniture, He had to have it.


There were several yard sales along the Cherokee Scenic Highway that day, a couple of miles apart. In the foothills of South Carolina, “old rust” was and still is hard to find, but Mike diligently stopped at every yard sale and checked them out. He even went so far as to ask the home owners if they might have any old woodworking tools laying about. Flea markets are where you find old tools around here, but it seems like everyone selling at the flea market is an antique dealer now. The reason Mike checked out every yard sale he passed is because every once in a while, he’d get lucky.

Like the time, a couple of years ago, right after he’d lost most of his antique tools in a storage building fire, Mike saw an ad in the local paper advertising some tools. Off he went and sure enough, there were two large tool chests with the original locks. And of course the owner couldn’t find the keys. As Mike was waiting for the home owner to find the keys to the chests, a couple of other interested gentlemen walked up and wanted to see the tools. Mike already had his checkbook in his hand and told the lady that, yes, he would buy both tool chests, sight unseen. That’s when she told him she had found the keys. His hand was shaking as he made out a check for five hundred dollars, hoping that he hadn’t made a big mistake. He handed over the check in return for the keys.


He anxiously unlocked the large box first to inspect his plunder as the other gentlemen looked on. It was a large chest, about forty inches by twenty four inches by twenty inches tall, made of what looked like Mahogany. It had seven removable, sliding trays, also made of Mahogany. Mike pulled the first tray out thinking, what a disappointment, nothing but old junk and hardware. The second tray was the same. He thought he heard one of the guy’s standing behind him snicker. His heart sank as he pulled the second tray out until he saw that the third tray was full of chisels and gouges. He was really anxious to see what was under the other trays, but he took the time to see what brands of chisels he had found. Charles Buck, Buck Brothers, S.J. Addis, and PS&W jumped out at him. All the makers were from from the late 1800′s and very early 1900′s.

As He carefully replaced the chisels back into the tray, the ” snicker-er” said,” Lets see what else ya got.” Mike looked over his shoulder at the man and gave him a look of reproach. The gentleman said, “excuse me sir”, and stepped back. Mike lifted out the third tray and set it aside. There in the forth tray was an old Stanley No. 71 router plane,( actually a Pattern maker’s copy), and a Stanley transitional plane, a No. 35, along with about a dozen Starrett calipers and dividers. He pulled the instruments out to see what was under them and found an old Starrett twenty-four inch ruler with all three heads, including the scribe. As Mike pulled out the fourth tray, the snickers turned into ooh’s and ahh’s, when he revealed a type two Stanley No. 45 with the rods and correct cutters. The Galoot was well satisfied with his purchase now, and he hadn’t even started on the second, slightly smaller chest yet.

Mike decided that the gentlemen behind him hadn’t suffered enough, so he asked the previous owner if she had any history on the tools. She told them about how her grandfather had been a Pattern maker for the old Fulton Bag Company down in Atlanta, Ga. back at the turn of the century. When asked if both chests belonged to her grandfather, the woman said no, that the larger chest had belonged to her great-uncle, who had been a fair-to-middlin’ woodworker and furniture maker. Mike thanked the woman for the tools and told her that they would be well taken care of and used for the purpose for which they were made. It seemed to make the  woman happy and he could almost hear a sigh of relief from Her as she pocketed the check.

Mike decided he would take the chests home before he opened the other chest. He figured those other guys had suffered enough and didn’t want to rub salt in their wounds.


Well, he made it safely home with the two tool chests. The first thing Mike did was to get a dust rag and a notebook to list the tools. He cataloged the first four trays before going to number five. Tray five contained an old Disston & Sons multi-blade saw, a handle with five different blades to go with it. A pad saw, keyhole saw, “table saw”, double toothed saw, and back saw blades, along with some taps in their original boxes, some of which looked like they’d never been used. There was also a box of seven inch slim taper files that had never been opened. Tray six contained a bunch of miscellaneous hardware along with a nice old Disston & Sons back saw and a Disston 8PPI hand saw, both in pretty good shape. Tray seven had a bunch of papers, pencils, and junk. In the bottom of the chest was just a bunch more miscellaneous hardware, and just plain junk, although he did find a set of craftsman-made trammel points, plus what looked like the makings for another set.

Mike fiddled around with the key and finally got the second chest unlocked. This chest only had four trays in it, was made of what looked like Poplar or Pine, and was about 30x20x about 16 inches high. The first tray contained some papers, including a full page, printed on both sides, North Brothers “Yankee” Tools catalog, an empty aspirin tin, some old stamps, and some other junk. Tray two had in it an unmarked keyhole saw, probably a Disston, a bunch of glass cutters, and some files and rasps. Tray three had a few more chisels, and an old wooden body spokeshave with brass knobs and brass shoe. Tray four had in it, another wooden body spokeshave, can’t remember the maker’s mark, a Miller Falls No. 1 cigar shave, and a craftsman-made aluminum spoke shave with a one inch blade and a spread of only three inches end to end, plus some more hardware and junk. There was also a nice old set of large Stanley trammel points on the “stick”, laying amongst the junk in the bottom tray of the second chest

When Mike pulled the fourth tray out, there in the bottom of the second chest were a Stanley type seven No. 7 and No. 6 bench planes. there was also some more hardware and junk in the bottom of it, too. Mike got to thinking that maybe the lady who had sold him the tool chests might have rummaged through them prior to putting them up for sale because it looked like some of the tools were mixed up between both chests. After Mike had cataloged everything, including tools, calipers, rulers, and stuff that he could use or sell, he found that he had over 200 items, plus the hardware, papers, and junk.

Thus ends the true story of Mike’s rust hunting adventure from two years ago. Some of the machinist tools and a few,( very few), of the woodworking tools were sold in order to recoup the five hundred dollar investment. Mike also sold the largest tool chest because, empty, it still took two men to lift and carry it.

The smaller chest belonged to the Patter nmaker and has his initials in “gold leaf” inscribed under the lock escutcheon. Provenance can be proven on this particular chest because papers found in the chest dated to the 30′s or so rewarding him for 25 years service to the Fulton Bag and Cotton Company.

It’s kind of funny, but thinking back on it, my ex-wife’s grandmother lived in one of the old mill houses in Cabbagetown where this company was located. I didn’t really get the link until I did a search on the company

Hope y’all enjoyed this true story.  God bless.

Mike                                                                            12/12/04

Cross posted from Thatmrgguy

7 responses to “Mike’s Excellent Adventure…True Story

  1. The smaller chest belonged to the Patter nmaker and has his initials in “gold leaf” inscribed under the lock escutcheon. Provenance can be proven on this particular chest because papers found in the chest dated to the 30′s or so rewarding him for 25 years service to the Fulton Bag and Cotton Company.

    You’re an artisan in yer own right…
    You’re both an coinsure and appreciative collector of the artist’s tools.
    I’d luv to see a catalog of your own works and expertise…

    Gramps sends… all the very best…!

  2. Thanks for the kind words Gramps. Most of my pictures are still on my old computer. I’m not sure I could even retrieve them anymore. I’ve got a few pictures of homes I’ve worked on and a few carvings on this computer, but no catalog of “fine works”. 😉

  3. Mike, I have an old catalogue that might interest you. It’s dated 1929, “Brown & Sharpe Small Tolls Catalogue No. 31.” It is 4 x 6 inches, and over 400 pages long of the various tools, drawings of the tools, commentary about their usage, and prices. Mostly toolmakers type tools for machine shops. Not sure if that the particular speciality that interests you. Lemme know if it is.

  4. Sure, I’d be interested in it John. If I can afford it that is. I have a 70’s catalog from Starrett tools that has about 400 or 500 pages with pictures of the different tools, but no explanation about their usage. I happen to have a Browne and Sharpe Universal Protractor in the original case I bought at an auction several years ago.

  5. I wasn’t planning on selling it–you can have it. Unless it’s worth say in excess of fifty bucks 😉

  6. Don’t reckon it’s worth that much. But I appreciate it and I’ll send you back a surprise. 😉

  7. Email me with your address and I’ll send it.

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